Saucebox Royal Fire

I embrace the summer cocktail season with vigor. Just as crucial to my personal summer well-being as bike rides, pool parties, and barbecues, my after-work negroni (gin, Campari, and red vermouth) on a Portland summer evening is a reminder of why I endure the winter. Portland in the summer is flawless, but like most things in life, it’s even better with a drink.

Thankfully, our better drinking establishments agree. After a few weeks of research due to an unseasonably warm three-week span of July weather in May, I’ve determined my two favorite summer cocktails thus far. As summer progresses, this list will grow.

First up: The Saucebox Royal Fire. With ice cubes spiked with the potent Chinese herb Schisandra and a mingling of punchy ginger-infused vodka, Harlequin, and orange juice, the Royal Fire is a delicious concoction that’s at once peppery, savory, salty, sour, and sweet. As my bartender tells me, schisandra is a prized herb that’s renowned in Chinese medicine for stimulating the central nervous system and augmenting the sex drive. Here in the West, the Royal Fire’s other principal ingredient (vodka) is known to have similar effects. So enjoy them together in the delicious Royal Fire, but switch to cola if uncontrollable gyrations commence.

For the sake of full disclosure, Clyde Common is my neighborhood bar. As my monthly debit card statement can attest, I spend many happy hours enjoying the ever-evolving cocktail selections from lead bartender Jeffrey Morganthaler and his clever compatriots. Clyde Common’s best-of-early-summer cocktail comes in what’s described by my server as “Eastern Bloc sangria.” With the Italian artichoke bitter Cynar mixed with Spanish white wine and a splash of soda, Morganthaler’s Broken Bike adds just the perfect kick to a summer white. Like my beloved negroni, it’s bitter up front but finishes easy. For folks like me who have trouble deciding between white wine or a bitter on a hot day, this is the absolute perfect solution. Finally, a sangria worth drinking.